Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Puffer fish!

We caught (and released) a bunch of fish today on our charter fishing trip. Including puffer fish! They're so cute.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Manatees Redux

What can I say - we did it again: swam with the manatees in Crystal River. For all the manatee details, see my post in June when we did the tour the first time. Back in June, it wasn't manatee season and we only saw 1 lonely guy.

This time, it's prime manatee season and we saw lots of them. We spent a good 90 minutes floating around the Three Sisters Springs taking pictures and video.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ice Storm (part 2)

Some more photos, in the setting sun.

PS. It's getting cut-throat at the shops when it comes to road salt. All the major stores are sold out. Our local hardware store is driving a 2 hr round trip to stock up, with people forming lines to buy it, an hour before the truck is expected to arrive. It's nuts!

I like the squiggly branches in this one:

 Neighbors' trees:

Sparkly tree!

Ice storm 2013

Over the weekend we were hit with a couple days of freezing rain. Everything ended up coated in about an inch of ice: trees, sidewalks, cars...

While out walking the dog I snapped a few photos. The first photo is of the tree outside our house. We actually lost power for most of Sunday afternoon and tens of thousands are still without power in Toronto, and may continue to be through to Christmas. Thankfully the city has plans in place to deal with the emergency.

I was staring at the tree branches, thinking they would make a pretty twisted stitch pattern on some socks.


 My dog, trying to negotiate the ice and snow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Study in Socks - Progress

The other day I wore one of the earlier socks I've knit. I can't recall exactly when I knit them, but it was early in my sock career. When I comb through the hand knits in my sock drawer, it's like an archeological survey of my education as a sock knitter.

The early layers, the furthest back in the drawer, rarely see the light of day. These socks don't fit. They're either too tight or don't fit correctly. When I was learning, I followed the instructions meticulously, but with a tension so tight you could bounce quarters off it. I was trying to prevent that pesky laddering problem between needles, and to create a fabric as tight and smooth as commercial made socks. The socks I wore this week were of this vintage, albeit later in the era. They fit around my leg and foot, but the toes and heels were off. The toe on one sock kept sticking out and didn't conform to my foot properly.

One other characteristic of this early foray into socks is the hit and miss quality of the yarn I used. I was experimenting and usually buying cheaper yarns. I hadn't discovered a blend that felt good on my feet.

The middle layers of sockitude begin to get more varied. As I gained experience I learned what size my foot was and how to adjust the toe and heel shaping for my foot instead of the pattern's ideal foot. The yarn became more varied. I tried self-striping yarns and bought the pricier commercial yarns. I was seduced by variegated yarns that look great in the skein but disappointed me when knit up. I also had a bit of a fling with Handmaiden Casbah sock yarn. This more adventurous era provided more learning opportunities in matching fiber blends with patterns, as well as lessons in gauge.

I learned which yarns felted if you looked at them in an agitated manner (I'm looking at you, alpaca blend). I learned that some yarns bloom when washed - and that this, combined with a lacey pattern means that your socks will grow a size or two. This is also when I experimented with a few different techniques: toe up, magic loop, two at a time (TAAT). I learned to relax my tension and tighten up the second stitch after changing needles, not the first, to reduce laddering. In addition - I learned cast on methods to ensure that the cuff of the sock wasn't too tight for my leg. In other words - I learned to step outside the strict instructions of the pattern to make socks that fit me. This may have also been the start of my enormous sock stash growth.

The outer layer of socks, the ones I reach for most frequently have all been made in the past two years. They fit perfectly. They are made of the "good" yarn in my stash: the indie dyers, Wollmeise, and Cascade Heritage. I realized that these yarns shouldn't sit unused in my stash. If I was going to spend 30 hours (or more) knitting a pair of socks, it should be with the good stuff. I began designing socks as an incentive to reduce my stash (hah!), so most of these socks are of my own creation. I even learned to enjoy knitting socks toe up! And there are a lot of socks missing from this layer - the socks I designed, knit and gave away to family and friends.

Perhaps it's just that time of year for reflection, but there's a lot to be said for looking back to see where you started and just how far you've come. We tend to focus on what we can't do (yet), but it's worth taking a moment (or three) to look at your accomplishments too. Well done, you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Choosing the right needles

In the "I couldn't have said it better myself" category, there's this blog post by

Friday, December 13, 2013

Knit-along in January & February

Welcome to the inaugural KAL here at Maureen Foulds Designs!

I'm very excited to announce the details of the upcoming Knit-along, which will coincide with the release of the first pattern in my upcoming Hercule Poirot series. The Hercule Poirot series will feature characters or novel titles from Agatha Christie's novels and short stories featuring everyone's favorite mustachioed Belgian detective.

Also, each of the pattern samples will be knit in Sweet Georgia Yarns range of sock yarns. You don't need to use Sweet Georgia yarn, but they are delicious to knit with and come in fabulous colors.

The read-along is optional. I've linked to the novel below. Your local library should have it. There's no need to buy a copy.

Pattern: Captain Hastings
Release Details:
- The pattern for the KAL will be available for $1.00 for 5 days: January 1-5th, 2014.
- Pattern photos & yarn/yardage requirements will be posted here Dec 22nd to allow people to decide whether they want to knit this pattern or pick another one of my patterns.

KAL dates: Monday, January 6th – Friday, February 28th

- Have fun!
- Knit Captain Hastings or any other of my patterns if you prefer
- Read The Big Four if you want and discuss.

This is a no-pressure KAL where the goal is to have fun, get to know each other and maybe indulge in some selfish post-Holiday knitting. Finish, don't finish - just hang out and have fun.

- Skein of Sweet Georgia sock yarn. Randomly awarded at the end of the KAL from amongst anyone who finishes at least 1 sock.
- 2 copies of the full Poirot collection. 1 awarded at midpoint randomly. 1 awarded at end randomly.
- 6 pattern prizes (winner's choice of pattern) randomly awarded weekly from posters in KAL thread. The more you comment, the more chances you have!

The Big Four, by Agatha Christie
Book: The Big Four, by Agatha Christie. Read-along with me. The Big Four is a fun read, comprised of mini-stories within a story as Poirot tackles a cabal of master criminals known as The Big Four.

Hercule Poirot is preparing for a voyage to South America. Looming in the doorway of his bedroom is an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust and mud. The man's gaunt face registers Poirot for a moment, and then he collapses. The stranger recovers long enough to identify Poirot by name and madly and repeatedly scribble the figure '4' on a piece of paper. Poirot cancels his trip. An investigation is in order. Fortunately, Poirot has the faithful Captain Hastings at his side as he plunges into a conspiracy of international scope -- one that would consolidate power in the deadly cabal known as 'The Big Four.'

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Intertwined socks - Now Toe-Up!

As mentioned a few times here on the blog, I'm slowly working my way through the process of releasing some of my existing cuff-down sock patterns as toe-up versions. I'm hearing more and more feedback from toe-up knitters who love my designs and want to knit them toe-up. 
It's taking some time, and not all patterns will lend themselves to the toe-up treatment, but here's the latest installment: Intertwined Socks.

These cabled delights are now available in both cuff-down and toe-up versions. When you buy the pattern, you'll get both PDF versions. People who have previously bought the cuff-down pattern, either individually or as part of Twisted Socks: The Cable Collection, should have already received the update via Ravelry.

The pattern instructions are provided for two sizes, medium and large. The intertwining lattice pattern is repeated on the front and back of the socks.

The cables in this pattern are simple 1/1 cables. You may wish to cable without a cable needle for a faster knitting experience. The technique of cabling without a cable needle is described in the Knitty Winter 2007 issue, located here: http://knitty.com/ISSUEwinter07/FEATwin07TT.html

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We have a winner - Polonaise Cowl

Polonaise Cowl by Minimi Knit Designs
Back on December 3rd I posted an interview and giveaway with Minimi Knit Designs. She generously offered a copy of her Polonaise Cowl as a giveaway prize.

Life got a bit away from me and instead of announcing the winner on Friday, I'm just doing it now. Better late than never!

Drumroll please!

The winner of a copy of the Polonaise Cowl pattern by Minimi Knit Designs, as selected by random number generator is..... Special K!

Special K, please get in touch with me to claim your prize. My email is maureenfouldsdesigns AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I'm (almost) speechless.

Yesterday at noon I published my And Then There Were Mitts pattern on Ravelry. I decided to make them free for 2 days (Dec 9-11). Usually when I've done that in the past, there are perhaps 2-300 individual downloads.

Less than 24 hours later ATTWM is at 3700! And growing. And look what happened:

That's me at #1---->

#1 out of the 146,372 patterns available on Ravelry!


Monday, December 9, 2013

And Then There Were Mitts!

Ribbing unfolded to cover the fingers
I've just released a new pattern: And Then There Were Mitts. These fingerless mitts may look familiar: they use the main cable pattern from my recent And Then There Were None socks.

They're free on Ravelry December 9-11, 2013. After that, there will be a 25% discount for anyone who purchases both And Then There Were patterns (sock & mitt). This includes if you've already bought the socks in the past.

It's funny - I'd been thinking for a while about turning some of my favorite stitch patterns into fingerless mitts, just for fun. Then a fellow Raveler mentioned that she just loved the ATTWN cable so much that she had to buy the pattern - even though she never knits socks! She had thoughts of turning it into a fingerless mitt.

Ribbing folded back
So, with the planets aligning between feedback and my intentions, I fast-tracked my plans and got to work.

In planning the mitts, I decided I wanted a long ribbing section over the fingers. My fingers always get cold if I wear fingerless mitts. With this "turtleneck" ribbing, I can roll the cuff over my fingers if it's chilly. All while keeping my fingers free to pick up change, type or do whatever. For driving, when I want to ensure a good grip on the steering wheel, I can fold the ribbing back and hold onto the wheel better.

The mitts need not be as long as in the photos. But the gauntlet length certainly keeps the cold air from blowing your sleeves. And the ribbing on the palm side makes a super-stretchy fabric to accommodate a range of hand sizes.

The sample mitts were knit with Blueberry Pie Studios semi-solid sock yarn, in the Into the Forest colorway. It's simply gorgeous and wonderfully soft. The tiny variations of green add a lovely texture and depth to the cables.

I'll be posting an interview with Blueberry Pie Studios shortly.

Tips and Techniques: Cables

At knit night last week, I learned a handy tip for making neater looking cables. I was going to post it here, but the friend who passed along the tip has blogged it perfectly, complete with photos. So if you're into cables, check out her post: Obsessed with Cables.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ravelry - New Share Feature

Ravelry is already one of the best designed applications I've ever seen (and I've worked in the software business for 15 years). But Casey, the master coder, continues to add amazing new features.

The other day Ravelry debuted a new "Share This" feature, which is available from the pattern pages (not individual project pages). This new feature allows you to share a pattern via several different social media.

Simply click the share this link (highlighted in red below) and a pop up menu will appear with your sharing options.

You can send a Ravelry private message (PM) to a fellow Raveler, share on Facebook, Twitter or pin a pattern to Pinterest. I absolutely love this feature! 
There's been so many times I've wanted to show a pattern to a friend because I know they'll love it. So I've either had to copy and paste the URL in a PM, or add it to my faves so they'll see it. This way, I can just PM it to them directly. And I can easily pin inspirational patterns to my Pinterest boards for later. No more muddling up my favorites or queue with stuff I want to remember but not necessarily knit.
What a great way to spread the word about patterns you love!

PS. The pattern in the pictures? My latest pattern, which is exclusive to members of the Tripping Yarn Balls yarn club for 2014. It won't be available to the general public until Jan 2015.

Friday, December 6, 2013

An epically frustrating knitting day

We all have bad days. Some worse than others. And sometimes they don't spread themselves out. Instead the bad stuff decides to jump on you on the same day.

I recently had the trifecta of terribleness, a convergence of crap, a fistful of frustration. 

First, it was Monday. Sure, not the worst thing in the world. It happens every 7th day. You learn to deal. But looking back it seem appropriate that it was a Monday.
Sweet Georgia Pistachio colorway

Second, I was looking forward to a special yarn shipment from Sweet Georgia Yarns. They were kind enough to send me an extra skein of their BFL sock yarn in the amazing Pistachio colorway. It's destined to become one of my Poirot collection socks for February. Canada Post said it should arrive by Nov 29th. On Monday, I finally got the key tag in my mail box to open the parcel delivery box where my Sweet Georgia yarn was. Thing is - there was no key on the tag.

You know the scenes in the movies where the prisoner and his visitor put their hands up to the glass partition to "touch"? Yeah - that was  me and my yarn. Hunched in the dark, cold rain. Separated by a thin piece of metal. And a lock with no key.

And the feather in my cap of a bad knitting day? Back from the mailbox, I spent my evening finishing up the size 12 mens socks that were to be the mates of the Pistachio prisoner. I was excited because I was about 4 inches away from being done. I was itching to start a new project.

Right before bedtime I looked at the sock, gauging how close I was to completion. Then it hit me: I had forgotten to mirror the stitch pattern.

It felt like every anxiety dream I've ever had. My stomach felt like it had dropped to the floor. 13 inches of sock and I'd NEVER NOTICED! To be fair, I think this is the first of my sock to feature a mirror image pattern. But still!

Now if this was any old sock I wouldn't care. But I have plans for a photo shoot for these socks. I need pattern photos. Photos that don't highlight my rookie mistake.

Nothing to but rip out 13" of extra large sock. It took around 13 hours to knit it and only 4 minutes to rip it out.

I chuckled the entire four minutes though.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another peek behind the curtain

I'm having a lot of fun with the Giftalong designer interviews. Linda from Knitwise Design just posted another interview with me.

Peek behind the curtain...

PS. Leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a copy of one of my patterns!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Interview with Minimi Knit Designs

Costanza Cardigan
I've been having a lot of fun participating in the Indie Design Giftalong. Part of what I've really enjoyed is discovering new (to me) designers. One of these is Christina Ghirlanda, the creative genius behind Minimi Knit Design. I was immediately drawn to her Costanza cardigan. It's gone on my short list of future cardigans to knit!

So I asked Christina if she'd mind doing a short interview for the blog. Don't forget to read to the end. Christina has generously offered to give away a pattern! Here's what she had to say:

How did you get started designing knitwear? Do you have a particular niche you focus on?
I have started designing because I have got many requests to write up the pattern for the Minimissimi Sweater Coat. I must confess that I would have never designed that coat if I had known how hard it was to grade it!

I design things that solve my own problems. For example, I designed Gacoco Baby Blanket because I wanted several cashmere baby blankets. I could not justify the time and cost for blankets that last only a few months so I designed that modular blanket that basically lasts forever.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I get my inspiration when I cannot see things clearly, that means when I am traveling in car or when I am without eyeglasses.

Can you describe your design process from idea to finished pattern?
I am working on a blog series on this topic, you may find it interesting: http://minimiknitdesign.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/the-prod...
Tell us about how the Indie Designer Giftalong has impacted you.
It’s all about accessories. Prior to the GAL I was mostly a garment designer, this event really got me interested in designing accessories. They are such an instant gratification both to design and to knit.
Gacoco baby blanket

What can knitters look forward to from you in 2014?
I am terribly bad at planning ahead. I am currently working on a cardigan and a secret project. But for the rest, it will be a surprise also for me.

Who are some new, interesting designers you have found during the Giftalong?
Many of GAL designers are really talented. As I’m more inclined to designing garments, I particularly like designs from Georgie Hallam and Justyna Lorkowska.

Finally, where can knitters find your designs?
On Ravelry or on my website MinimiKnitDesign.com

Polonaise Cowl

Want to win a copy of Christina's most recent pattern? The Polonaise Cowl is a gorgeous cabled knit that will keep you (or a loved one) warm and snug this winter. Leave a comment and I'll pick a winner by random number generator on the morning of December 6th.